10 April, 2007

When You've Blown It With God (Part 2)

Last week I started this thought… and I figured I needed to get back to it.
We all blow it with God at times. The question is, what do we do when we fail or fall? Do we lay there in self-pity, or do we get up.

The question is: "How does one get up?"
Let’s look back at how Peter was able to do it.


1. Resist the urge to abandon your mission.
John doesn’t really tell us why Peter decided to go fishing and commentators spend much ink speculating about it, but I’ll throw my two cents in on this thought.
I suspect that after denying Christ he assumed that he was no longer a player in God’s grand design, so he went back to the occupation where he was successful before meeting the Lord. I’m not certain that Peter was actively abandoning his mission to lead the soon-to-be-birthed Church, but he was definitely exploring the possibilities.

I can totally understand.

As I’ve sinned and failed and seen the destruction of my own shortcomings in pastoral ministry I’ve often been tempted to pursue former vocations. I’ve spent many a sleepless night devising a plan for how I could be a better counselor, contemplating going back after various blunders. It would be easy because I’ve done it before, but I suspect that I would be even more miserable than before.

Peter went back to fishing, and he worked all night without catching a single fish. If anyone knew about fishing it was Peter. He knew all the right fishing spots and all the tricks of the trade, but his best efforts proved fruitless.
You see, the blessings of God were no longer with him in this profession.
He had a mission that Christ had not told him to abandon.

If you blow it with God and then opt for default mode I can promise you that one of two things will happen.
One you won’t be successful in it again.
Or, though you might experience success you’re going to be miserable.
God will continue to call you to your specific life mission.

2. Remember Jesus’ initial call.
After a frustrating night without a catch, a stranger appears on the shore. We know its Jesus, but Peter did not. It was not uncommon in those days for fishermen to take advice from someone with a different perspective. When the Man on the shore told the guys to cast their nets on the right side of the boat they followed His instruction, not because they thought He was the Lord, but because they figured He could see a school of fish from the shore that their eyes could not detect in the boat. They hauled the net up and it was a banner catch. They suddenly had so many fish that they were unable to bring the fish into the boat.
That’s when it clicked with John.
He remembered the early days when they’d just met Jesus. Back then, a similar scenario happened. On that occasion Jesus told them to go out deeper and let their nets down. They caught so many fish that their boats began to sink. They made it to shore and Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” The current haul of fish was a reminder of that initial call. John nudged Peter and he too remembered.
His calling, the thing he felt disqualified from, suddenly came back into view.

Let me pause here and talk about calling.

Some folks live under the false idea that only preachers, missionaries and other people in religious professions are called. That’s totally untrue. We are all called and we are called in two very distinct ways.

In his book, The Call, Os Guinness explains that we have two kinds of calls:
“Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as motherhood, politics, or teaching) or to somewhere (such as the inner city or Outer Mongolia). Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him.”

Guinness affirms that everyone has a central purpose for their life.
Each of us were created for a reason. This is our calling.
He writes: “Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

If you’ve never had a sense of calling, maybe it’s because you disqualified yourself in your own mind. Maybe you just never considered that your life was all that important in God’s design. Your calling is important and you do have one.
When you’ve blown it, you’ll be tempted to give up, but Christ will give you clues to remind you that He never rescinded the central purpose of your life.
Don’t resist the thoughts and tell yourself it’s just nostalgia. Allow your mind to go back to Jesus’ initial call. When you feel that your sins are too big for God to forgive, remind yourself of the time you experienced God’s free gift of grace.
You couldn’t earn your salvation and relationship with Him then and you can’t now.
Go back to the things you know Christ has made clear about your secondary call.
It will bolster your faith and help you to get up after you fall.
You are not disqualified unless you disqualify yourself.

3. Face your failure with faith.
The most painful part of this encounter for Peter was Jesus’ questioning. “Simon, son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?”
What kind of absurd question is that?
Peter had just swum a football field length of water to be with the Lord. How could He question his love?

But we must recognize what Jesus was doing.
He was indirectly taking him back to the moments before His arrest when Peter declared, “Even if all these disciple leave you I will not. I will die for You if I have to.”
“Really Peter? Do you really love Me more than these men? Did you love me any more than they?” The full force of Jesus’ questions didn’t hit Peter until He asked the same question a third time. At this point Peter could not escape looking at his sin.
He had denied Christ three times.
But here’s the really wonderful thing. Christ did not condemn Peter for what he did.
He got him to face it, but Jesus followed up each question with an affirmation of Peter’s call: feed My sheep.

That is the truly awesome thing about God.
He makes our sin exceedingly clear, but there’s no condemnation with the conviction.
There’s no accusation, only restoration.
It’s like Jesus is saying, “Here’s what you did. Turn from it. But here’s who you really are. Live it.”

If you’ve blown it with God and you hear a voice telling you that you’re an awful person, disgusting, mean, perverted, twisted, of no value, disqualified, Let me tell you… THAT IS NOT THE VOICE OF GOD! He will point out your sin so that you’ll turn from it, ask forgiveness and be healed, but He’s not going to load you down with guilt and condemnation. That’s what Satan does. He called the accuser of the brethren for a reason. Learn to distinguish between those voices.

The enemy says, “Give up!”
God says, “Go on!”
Face your failure, but do it with faith.

Jesus led Peter in this question answer session so that he would recognize the problem behind the sin.
Peter was self-reliant.
He tended to over estimate his abilities and plunge in carelessly. He didn’t see his weak spot.
Peter was a people pleaser.
Jesus led him to this understanding so that he would also discern his need for the power of God to overcome it.

4. Admit your need for God’s power to go forward.
Peter made impulsive decisions and didn’t come through in the crunch. Why?
He was relying on himself and not God.
As a result his personal weakness of people pleasing took the lead. Why?
He wasn’t seeking God’s power to overcome it.

I suspect that seeing this glaring character flaw shut down Peter’s impulsivity.
He could not be a fisher of men or a shepherd to Christ’s sheep if he tried to please everyone. He needed to take his orders from Christ, the Good Shepherd.
That’s the way God works.

He puts us in situations where the ugliness inside of us comes to the surface.
He doesn’t do it so we’ll say, “Yuck!” and then feel really bad about ourselves.
He reveals it so we’ll see and admit our need for Him.

When I first became a Christian I honestly thought I was a pretty good fellow. As my relationship with Jesus has progressed, however, I’ve seen more and more ugliness.
I’ve learned that I’m petty, especially when I feel out of control.
I’ll nitpick and criticize and micro-manage and spew out negativity about other people, just to gain a sense of control.
I’ve found that I’m mean and even cruel sometimes to people I have power over, like my children.
With people who have power over me I tend to operate out of fear, put on a happy face, and do all in my power to please them.
I’ve discovered that I can sometimes be hard-hearted toward people who are needy.
That’s bad stuff… but it’s the truth!

This could easily drive me to despair, but I remember that I’m saved by grace and that God will complete this process of cleaning me up and healing me that He began so many years ago.
I need God’s power or I won’t go forward.

I especially love how John closes the story. Jesus simply says “Follow me” and off they go down the beach. It’s a great metaphor for when Jesus truly wants for each of us:

5. Walk closely and humbly with the Lord.
Peter would accomplish his calling.
He made more mistakes along the way, but he followed through.
He provided rock hard leadership for the church.
He later sacrificed his life for his Lord.
The impulsivity was gone. The people pleasing disappeared.
Peter learned to walk close and humbly with the Lord.

That’s really the way Jesus does it.
Our sins, failures, and shortcomings are allowed by God, but for the purpose of driving us closer to Christ. He shows us the ugly so that we will admit our need and humbly reach out for His grace to overcome it.
We will all fall at various times and in various ways.
The trick is to take Jesus’ hand, get up, and keep walking closely and humbly with Him.

Through Christ, blunders can make you better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this article. God used it to encourage me. He brought me to tears over my own sin and failure that I have been struggling with for about 2 years. I have been consequently been keenly aware that God's unfathomable grace and pity is the only hope I have. I am beginning to have hope again that He can and will use me for glory!

All thanks to Jesus, my Savior! And thanks to you, Darrell, for sharing. Who knows the differences in eternity this article may have had.

In Christ Alone!